Category: Vigils

We Took a Breath

The caged bird sings  
with a fearful trill  
of things unknown  
but longed for still  
and his tune is heard  
on the distant hill  
for the caged bird  
sings of freedom.

We took to an impromptu stage. We took to a Zoom screen. We took to Burton Park and in a unified (but socially distant) voice our community spoke out against racism and spoke in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

The Breathe Vigil was led by Cindy Chen, Milad Shafaie, Rachel Amir Chatman and Liane Brown; Carlmont High School graduates embarking on their own adventures next academic year and who are among the strong voices for our community today and tomorrow.

Everyone has the responsibility to educate themselves on African American history of and of the ongoing struggle of all black and brown people for equality and justice. If you’re going to show up to a vigil or a protest, show up educated.

Education and political change take time and commitment, Rachel Amir Chatman reminded us that the Birmingham campaign lasted a month, the Greensboro sit-ins lasted six months, the Freedom Riders lasted seven months and the Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 382 days. “The fight doesn’t end here,” Chatman added. “This is just the beginning.

And while the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are the catalysts for the current wave of Black Lives Matter protests, Liane Brown read the names of the many others over the years who have been the victims of police and white vigilante brutality.

Honoring the memories of the dead, while important, isn’t enough. Brown challenged members of the crowd, “Did you care about George Floyd, before he died? Do you care about black people in general, before we die?”

Milad Shafaie also touched on this theme and asked if non-black allies doing enough to support the black and brown communities. “We have the privilege to live relativity blissful lives, ignorant to the various forms of oppression African Americans still face.” If non-black allies live in this ignorance, aren’t they then playing a role in perpetuating systemic racism?

But looking to the future, Chatman, Brown and Shafaie all had ideas on what everyone in the community can do to educate themselves and stamp out racism. These ideas included:

  • Read books and watch documentaries on African American history
  • Engage in Black culture that is outside of the mainstream media
  • Seek out Black owned businesses
  • Campaign and vote for candidates who speak out against racism
  • Be a catalyst for honest dialog about racism

There were several hundred people spread out across Burton Park to listen to these words and over 70 people tuning in remotely over Zoom. Keeping the proceedings going was done in no small part by JT Eden who made sure the live mics and the Zoom meeting were all running smoothly.

Cindy Chen kicked off the proceedings by selecting and reading the poem Caged Bird by Maya Angelou. The poem tells of a bird singing to be free and Chen brought the words of the poem to life for the audience:

Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind  
and floats downstream  
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
 
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and  
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
 
The caged bird sings  
with a fearful trill  
of things unknown  
but longed for still  
and his tune is heard  
on the distant hill  
for the caged bird  
sings of freedom.
 
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own
 
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams  
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream  
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied  
so he opens his throat to sing.
 
The caged bird sings  
with a fearful trill  
of things unknown  
but longed for still  
and his tune is heard  
on the distant hill  
for the caged bird  
sings of freedom.
San Carlos Breath Vigil

Virtual Vigil

Remember we have a virtual for the Breathe Vigil this Sunday. If you want to attend virtually, register here and we’ll send you a Zoom link on Sunday morning.

We tested out our webcast kit today at Burton Park and it worked beautifully. Virtual or in-person, let’s raise our voices in support of Black Lives Matter and to honor those lost in the fight against racism.

In the fight against racism, our weapons are the megaphone and the webinar. Regardless of our physical location, we can join together and support Black Lives Matter.

The Accidental Vigil

Last Sunday, those of us were involved in organizing a George Floyd vigil went to Burton Park to update people who hadn’t heard that it had been cancelled.

Personally, I was expecting to talk to a few stragglers and then head home. I was expecting to stay at Burton Park for about 15 minutes and then head home.

What happened next, I wasn’t expecting. None of us were.

About 100 people showed up at Burton Park with masks and signs and a desire to show solidarity for our community, our neighbors of color, our neighbors from marginalized communities.

When they all arrived, we got up on some steps and asked how many people knew the event was cancelled. Almost everyone raised their hands.

Almost everyone knew our version of the vigil was cancelled. They showed up anyway on their own.

And it wasn’t just one group. It was dozens of groups and families who all separately made the decision to show up to an event that they knew was cancelled.

From the unexpected came a realization, one that is now plainly obvious in hindsight. What PPAG says or does about a vigil or what the Council says or does about a vigil, doesn’t really matter. What does matter, and what is now apparent, is that the desire for the San Carlos community to make a statement against the scourge of racism exists.

We can organize events or not. We can show bravery or show fear. We can exist in the small town myth or we can realize again what COVID has already shown us; that the anxieties of the world are upon us and are as present in Burton Park as they are in Central Park, as present on Laurel St as they are on the streets of Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles.

San Carlos and all the other small cities in the countless counties across the United States are as much a center of racial tension as any large metropolis. We’ve begun the process of organizing another vigil and we’ll provide updates

The movement and the desire for change is greater than any of us, but we are not powerless. We can make our voices heard in a manner that is both strong and appropriate for San Carlos.

In the meantime, here are some actions you can take:

Call To Action